Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Help me, TBN readers!

My fiance and I are getting married this October 3rd. And one of the things I've been pondering lately is how wonderful it would be if some of our wedding portraits were posed to look the same as a few classic Pre-Raphaelite artworks. So, dear readers, I ask you for your suggestions. I am looking for any beautifully posed Pre-Raphaelite artworks that show a man and a woman (doesn't have to be a bride and groom).

Go forth, my minions! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mary Harper Portrait -- Strawberry Thief!

Another random sighting of a William Morris pattern....this time in the background of a portrait of Mary Harper done by her husband Frank Sidney Harper in 1919. Found here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

You might be a William Morris addict if.... browse through a fashion do's and don't's article, and immediately think "oooh that dress fabric looks SO William Morris!"

Who would have thought I'd ever have a picture of Nicole Richie on my blog...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red House, Black Cat

This blog is something that will probably only be of interest to a small handful of you, but it made me grin, so I have to share.

You may recall I mentioned once before that I have a gorgeous black cat-child. Well, apparently, so does William Morris' Red House! Seen here and here are two different Red House tourists' shots of his handsome mug. His name is Oscar, and I would love to know more about him! The black cat owner in me adores the idea of a gorgeous little panther walking around the birthplace of Arts and Crafts, protecting it. Anyone who has been to Red House or might know more about little Oscar, please let me know!

Also, something of interest to more than just black cat lovers...I stumbled across this most excellent resource for anyone planning a Pre-Raphaelite themed trip to England. This page is all about where to find Pre-Raphaelite interiors, but hit "previous" and "next" to find listings of galleries in London and further afield.

I'll just tuck that website away in the category of "one can dream." :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Waterhouse's Enchanted Garden

You may already know that of all of the second and third generation P.R.B.-inspired artists, John William Waterhouse is my favorite (in fact, my favorite artist of all time). Although I cannot say that his Enchanted Garden is my #1 favorite of his works, it is one that haunts me with its beauty as well as its intentional and perhaps unintentional symbolism.

The artwork shows a story from Boccaccio's Decameron. The story told is explained in the transcript of a lecture by Sandra Penketh:

It [Waterhouse's painting] tells the story of a young man Ansaldo who falls in love with a married woman Dionora. It's Dionora that you can see on the left-hand side of the painting. Dionora is married to Gilberto but Ansaldo doesn't let this put him off. Not at all. He pursues her and pursues her and despite her doing all she can to deter him he continues to pursue her. In the end to try and get rid of him she gives him what she believes is an impossible task to do.

She says I'll only return your love, become your lover, if you can do this task for me. The task that she sets him is in January in the midst of winter to produce a summer garden...

So Dionora doesn't make public to her husband what she's done, this task she's set or the whole situation. She just gives Ansaldo this task and thinks that's the end of it. But Ansaldo being rather clever finds a magician who can do the task for him...The magician successfully produces a summer garden in January.

However, the thing that always struck me the most about this artwork was the fact that Waterhouse left it unfinished when he died. It was one of the final projects that he was working on, and when I look at the artwork, I think it shows. The woman on the left, in the pink gown, looks behind her at the snow blowing in on the steps to the garden. Her expression shows trepidation and concern...she is more worried about the cold outside the enchanted space than the beauty within. It is as if she knows that the created summer won't last forever...winter has only been delayed. Waterhouse seems to have the thought of his own mortality in mind in this photo. The unfinished quality of portions of the canvas only add to their emotional impact to me.

Waterhouse also included many of his signature elements in this artwork. There is the woman bending over to smell a rose. There is the woman in blue lifting her skirts to reveal the red beneath (Waterhouse adored a blue and red gown scheme, and used it time and again). I have a suspicion that there's even more symbolism in this painting than I have yet discovered. It is as though he wants this one painting to include everything he has ever striven for.

Again, although this may not be my absolute favorite artwork by Waterhouse, it is by far one of the most moving.

For a full transcript of the lecture given by Sandra Penketh on this artwork and Waterhouse's The Decameron, click here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jane Morris' Jewel Casket

This has to be my absolute favorite Pre-Raphaelite decorated object. And it's so small! But I know the first time I saw this in a photo of Kelmscott, I adored it and wanted to see it larger.

According to the Rossetti archive:

"This pastiche medieval jewel case may have been Siddal's originally, though it later came into Jane Morris's possession and is now preserved at Kelmscott Manor. It has fourteen small panels though only half still have their original decorations. “One of the scenes, showing two lovers by a rose trellis, derives from a medieval manuscript in the British Museum, the early 15th century Poems of Christine de Pisan ( Treuherz, Prettijohn, Becker, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 227 )."

According to another article online:

"The Pre-Raphaelite design of this casket is typical of the work of Philip Webb. The panels were painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal. At least one of the paintings appears to have been copied from a fifteenth-century manuscript. The casket belonged to Jane Burden, William Morris’s wife, and was possibly given on her marriage in 1859. "

I love to think of Rossetti and Lizzie creating this casket together as a wedding gift for Jane, whether that be the reality or not.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Martin Beek's Millais Work

Last week I blogged about the amazing new application, Tag Galaxy, which allows you to search Flickr images with ease. Through searching the keyword, Pre-Raphaelite, I found several amazing images, but I was most blown away by the albums of Martin Beek. This man, an artist with an over 30-year admiration for the work of Millais, has assembled some truly remarkable research materials on him.

The above image (click for a link to it on Flickr) made me exclaim out loud when I saw it...Beek actually went to the vistas at which Millais painted his art, and in several examples, meticulously found the precise angle at which the artist might have been working. Above on the left, you see Millais' famous artwork of Ruskin, and on the right is Martin Beek's photo of the location. Remarkable!

Beek's Flickr album of Millais landscapes is here. He also has another album on Millais, which includes some other wonderful visuals I'd never seen before. Several images compare Millais' sketches side by side with his finished art, and I was especially fascinated with this collage of images (please do click image to see larger, or view his Flickr page on it here). Beek writes:

"Millais' painting "Knight Errant" (Tate Britain) caused something of a shock when first exhibited in 1870. It failed to find a buyer and was changed following its first exhibition at the RA. I've reconstructed its earlier appearance with the model's head facing forwards. The damsel's face was eventually cut out from the main canvas and inserted into a smaller one then clothed, becoming the painting now known as "The Martyr of The Solway" (Walker Art Gallery Liverpool). A new head was painted for "Knight Errant" in during 1871. Millais made no further attempts at painting the female nude. His only other work from an unclothed figure was A Forerunner 1896 (Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery).

Alison Smith in her book " The Victorian Nude" states:- Millais's painting, therefore, may have been an attempt to negotiate the problem of representing the nude female in close proximity to a clothed man. His couple are not presented as lovers; the gendered identities are unequivocal: stalwart hero, forlorn maiden. Nor is the picture painted in a way to invite readings of impuissance or sensuality.

If Millais was indeed offering a critique of Leighton's refined manner, why did the Knight Errant so offend? A considerable number of critics were affronted by the nakedness of the female victim. J. B. Atkinson declared in the Saturday Review: 'So literally . . . has the model been transcribed, that it is said the ligature of draperies may be detected on the contours. The figure thus bearing signs of having been denuded, it is scarcely surprising that the spectators call for clothes.' Several critics cast aspersions on the 'real' figure that lay behind Millais's treatment. 'The woman is not over pure in character or refined in expression', F. G. Stephens announced, but 'somewhat feverish-looking, and the carnations of the cheeks appear veiny as in worn faces'.Millais's damsel is likewise buxom, and her hair unbound, in contrast to the classically filleted style favoured by Watts and Moore. AS (1996)"

There's so much fascinating stuff here. I applaud this man's clear love of Millais, and the fascinating images and information he has made available through Flickr.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Artistic / Aesthetic Dresses Old and New

One of these days, I'd enjoy making myself an example of a Pre-Raphaelite Aesthetic-Style gown. Until then, I can admire the gowns made by Veda Crewe Joseph on this page.
The below dress looks like it could have come straight out of Jane Morris' closet!
And while I'm admiring aesthetic gowns, check out this actual vintage gown from 1910 or so, that has clearly been influenced by the aesthetic movement, and artists like Mucha. Gorgeous!

And finally, another vintage Aesthetic Pre-Raphaelite gown I found somewhere online, and lost the link! Be sure to click the picture to see it large and lovely.
For more information on artistic/aesthetic dress, check out a blog I did a bit ago, here.